POSTDOCS & STUDENTS

 

Postdocs

SANCHITA BADHRA | Postdoc

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

Sanchita Bhadra received her PhD in molecular genetics and microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin, where she now works as a Research Scientist. She pursues research in molecular engineering and point-of-care technologies to create new diagnostic/analytical methods and molecular biology reagents and processes that improve accessibility to healthcare and STEM education. Her collaborative work encompasses diverse fields including – (i) functional nucleic acids and strand displacement computational devices; (ii) nucleic acid probe and readout technologies; (iii) isothermal nucleic acid amplification assays; (iv) point-of-care diagnostics and hand-held hardware for field use; and (v) development of low cost molecular biology reagents.

EMMA CARRICK | Postdoc

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW

 

Emma Carrick is a postdoc in Lee Cronin’s group at the University of Glasgow. Her background is from a biological mass spectrometry, mainly proteomics, perspective. Her undergraduate degree was in Biomedical Science at Glasgow Caledonian, her MRes in Proteomic technologies at University of Glasgow, and her PhD in Mass Spectrometry method development from University of Dundee. Emma has had technical postdoc positions at the University of Manchester and at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow. Prior to joining the Cronin group, Emma was in the Biomarker Discovery group, also at the University of Glasgow. Emma enjoys looking at unusual and less common fragmentation patterns and their difficulties in data analysis. She has an appreciation of the transition of data into actual information, along with method development and pushing the machines to their limits, which she thinks is the fun bit.

LUOTH (LU) CHOU | Postdoc

NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER / GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Luoth (Lu) Chou is a NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellow primarily based at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Johnson Biosignatures Laboratory at Georgetown University. It was her endless fixation on the search for life in the universe that serendipitously (or perhaps inevitably) led her to conduct research on universal features of life that may be detectable with space-capable instrumentation aboard planetary exploration missions. She was formally trained in organic geochemistry through her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and microbiology and astronomy through her B.S. at the University of Maryland, College Park.

GEOFFREY COOPER | Postdoc

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW

Geoffrey Cooper is a Senior Researcher in the Cronin Group at the University of Glasgow. He completed a MSci in Chemistry and Bioorganic Chemistry at the University of Birmingham and then moved to the University of Glasgow in 2002 to undertake a PhD in inorganic transition metal cluster chemistry. After a short research position in Universiteit Leiden, NL, he moved back to Glasgow to work on complex systems chemistry and inorganic biology. His research interests lie between non-linear systems chemistry, synthetic biology and engineering, and he is especially interested in self-organising or self-growing materials and network formation in unconstrained small molecule soups.

NATALIE GREFENSTETTE | Postdoc

SANTA FE INSTITUTE

Natalie Grefenstette has always been interested in understanding life, and how it started or could start in different environments. This fascination with understanding life in the universe compelled her to study biochemistry at UCL so that she might better understand how life, at least as it is here on Earth, works. She later completed her Ph.D. in prebiotic chemistry so that she might better understand the chemical processes present at the start of life on Earth. She is interested in using this multidisciplinary background to help develop a deeper understanding of the organizing principles of biology and its very nature, and gain better understanding of life’s emergence on Earth and elsewhere, and how to detect life, in any chemical form it might take. 

COLE MATHIS | Postdoc

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW

Cole Mathis is a Post-Doctoral Researcher and Team Leader of the Artificial Life team in the Cronin Group at the University of Glasgow. His research focuses on connecting theory and experiments to detect and characterize abiotic and biological chemical mixtures. His primary research interests are the origin of Life and astrobiology. Cole received a PhD in physics in 2018 from Arizona State University, where he worked with Professor Sara Imari Walker on computational models of chemical evolution.

MAEVA MILLAN | Postdoc

NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER / GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Maëva Millan was trained as a physicist and earned a Master’s degree in Astrophysics and Space engineering before getting back to her first love: the origins of life! That led her to her second Master’s degree in Planetary Sciences and Space Exploration. Maëva is now a chemist, splitting her time between NASA-GSFC and Georgetown University, where she works on the search for organics on Mars with the SAM instrument onboard Curiosity. She’s also interested in the influence of minerals on organics using space extraction techniques, such as pyrolysis and derivatization-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which she optimizes through laboratory experiments. Maëva also works on the detection and preservation of organic biosignatures in Martian and icy moon analogs in support of current and future space missions. Her favorite activities are hiking and taking pictures, especially while traveling to the beautiful landscapes where she collects samples!

DOUGLAS MOORE | Postdoc

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

Douglas Moore is a postdoctoral research associate in the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University, where he is a member of Emergence@ASU. His research is in collaboration with Dr. Sara I. Walker (ASU) and Dr. Michael Levin (Tufts). He earned his PhD in physics from Baylor University in 2014 and worked at UT Southwestern Medical Center from 2014-2016 to develop a platform for real-time multi-leaf columnator motion tracking during radiation therapy. His current research interests focus on applying mathematical and computational techniques to problems in complex systems, physics, and biology. His research at ASU focuses on the role of information in biological systems, particularly how organisms store, read and modify their morphological patterning.

 

Students

ANDISHEH DADASHI | Student

UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO - VALENCIA

Andisheh Dadashi is an assistant professor of Mathematics at the University of New Mexico-
Valencia. She earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Statistics from a ranked
university in her native Iran, and then studied abroad in India, where she earned her first Master’s degree in Mathematical Statistics. She later moved to the USA, where she received a second Master’s degree in Statistics from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and became a full-time visiting faculty member at UNM-Gallup. Because STEM education is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, Andisheh sought to complement her background in mathematics and statistics with computer science and is eager to integrate Astrobiology into her curriculum. Andisheh currently teaches at UNM Valencia and is working on a Ph.D. in computer science—her research focuses on using mathematical and computational techniques by implementing a variety of evolutionary algorithms to explore metabolic space.

VICTORIA DA POIAN | Student

NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Victoria Da Poian is an aerospace engineer working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. As a kid, growing up in Indian Ocean, Eastern Europe and then in France, Victoria has always been interested in space exploration and manned missions. This passion made her choose ISAE-Supaero, the top French Engineering school for Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering, after preparatory classes, where she received her Master of Sciences. Victoria uses computational and machine learning techniques to develop science autonomy for planetary science missions such as the ExoMars mission (launched to Mars in 2022) and also for the detection of life in astrobiology and solar system exploration. Victoria’s main research interests are the use of multidisciplinary approaches to help develop a better understanding of life and habitable planetary environments as well as the design and conception of advanced instruments for exploration manned or unmanned missions.

DANIEL DIAZ | Student

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

 

Daniel Diaz is a second-year graduate student working under Andrew Ellington and Eric Anslyn. Danny’s research focus is at the intersection of chemistry and biochemistry with data science. The goal of his PhD is to develop computational tools and machine learning models that enable data-driven chemistry and biochemistry research. Danny’s day-to-day consists of data and machine learning engineering on NMR, LCMS, NGS, and structural biology data. With structural biology data, Danny develops novel machine learning models to accelerate the engineering of functional properties into enzymes. With NGS, NMR, and LCMS data, he develops novel machine learning models to elucidate chemical complexity and how complexity is partitioned between biotic and abiotic chemicals and materials.

TYLER GARVIN | Student

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Tyler Garvin is currently a PhD student in the Girguis Lab at Harvard University. Tyler served four years as an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army, including tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, before graduating with a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. Tyler’s research focuses primarily on microbe-mineral interactions in extreme environments, including the deep subsurface and the deep ocean. Specifically, he studies mineral mediated direct interspecies electron transfer (mDIET), which enables microbes to utilize conductive minerals to aid in harvesting energy from their environment.

ANDREW HYDE | Student

PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY

Andrew Hyde is currently a PhD candidate working in the House Lab at The Pennsylvania State University in the department of Geosciences. He graduated with a BS in Biology and an MS in Marine Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andrew is broadly interested in prebiotic chemistry, but specifically the role energetic molecules played in the origin of life on Earth. His current work concerns the formation of thioesters in various planetary environments and the functions these molecules might perform in prebiotic systems.

CHAD POZARYCKI | Student

NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Chad Pozarycki is a post-baccaulareate fellow at NASA Goddard working on developing standard desalting procedures for preparation of field samples.His current LAB project includes development of targetless desalting protocols and the evaluation of potentially sterile billion-year-old subsurface brines. His work outside LAB includes experiment optimization for organics detection on Curiosity’s SAM instrument and a meta-analysis of natural biologically sterile and polyextreme locations on earth. Chad received a B.S. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Penn State. He is looking towards graduate programs and has interests in Mars and ocean world exploration missions, limits of habitability and life detection research, and hopes to have an opportunity for field work.

ULYSSE PRIETO | Student

INSA TOULOUSE

Ulysse Prieto is an applied mathematics engineering student specializing in numerical methods from INSA Toulouse, a French engineering university. Ulysse was always fascinated by optimization, algorithms and complexity. Using graph theory, computational, and statistical methods, Ulysse's main research interest is centered around chemical complexity, especially trying to understand the similarities, discrepancies, and the type of information conveyed by different molecular complexity indices. He is also interested in applying machine learning techniques to try to solve problems related to mass spectrometry data, in particular how this class of problem solving methods compares to more classical ones.

ANAIS ROUSSEL | Student

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Anais Roussel is a PhD student in the Johnson Biosignatures Lab. The questions that she is passionate about pertain to biosignature formation and preservation in the Solar System. Anais is particularly interested in biosignatures’ preservation processes on Mars, under the destructive effects of Galactic Cosmic Rays. This research will help determine the most plausible locations on the Martian surface where evidence of past life could still be detected by ongoing and future Mars missions. As part of the Laboratory for Agnostics Biosignatures project, Anais is exploring how mass spectral fragmentation is related to the complexity of a molecule using a MALDI ion trap mass spectrometer with a tandem mass spectrometry (MS-MS).

HILLARY SMITH | Student

PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY

Hillary Smith is a PhD student in geosciences and astrobiology at Penn State. She has a BA in art, focusing in analog photography and ceramics, from Earlham College and a BS in earth and space science with an emphasis in biology from the University of Washington in Seattle. Her research focuses on microbes, metallomes, and biosignatures. Her current projects include work on the elemental fractionation of metals in biotic versus abiotic processes and agnosticizing DNA sequencing techniques. Hillary’s other interests include the history of science and natural philosophy.

MAGGIE WENG | Student

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Maggie Weng is a PhD student in the Johnson Biosignatures Lab. She did her undergraduate work at Washington University in St. Louis, where she majored in earth science and was a member of the Pathfinder program with Ray Arvidson. Her research interests include understanding the habitability and ecology of extreme environments. Maggie loves traveling and fieldwork, and is always interested in looking for intersections of her astrobiology work with relevant environmental problems. In LAB, Maggie works on the surface complementarity initiative and is also interested in exploring agnostic definitions of ecology and biological community structure. Maggie is also active in an effort to develop community standards for terrestrial analogs of Ocean Worlds environments.

NICOLE ROY | Student

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

Nicole Roy is a fifth-year undergraduate chemistry student who works in the Anslyn Lab as an HHMI research student. Her chemistry research focused on synthesis reactions, specifically the solid phase synthesis of pyrazolones. Now, she is using computer programming to curate a diverse dataset of molecules based on a combination of properties. From this dataset, NMR spectra will be generated and analyzed to demonstrate how trends in molecular properties can provide insight on the novel classification of classifying biotic and abiotic chemical species. Nicole is also a student in the Plan II Honors Program, a rigorous interdisciplinary studies program. She is writing an honors thesis that discusses the environmental history of alligators in southern Louisiana.

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